What to Do If You Get Demoted
By Mark Swartz
Monster Contributing Writer
It’s humiliating. You’ve been stripped of your previous title; demoted to a lesser position. Gone in a flash are the extra perks and salary. The work you’ll do now is less challenging. And your sphere of influence may have shrunk.
On the other hand…your workload may be easier. Your lesser position turns out to be less stressful. And the pay decrease isn’t such a big drop once taxes figured in.
Now it’s time to decide if you’re sad or glad about the demotion. Either way you’ll have to act accordingly, or risk facing further sanctions.
Figure Out Why You Got Demoted
Regardless if the demotion is good for you or not, you’ll want to understand why it happened. Otherwise you’re likely to repeat the errors that triggered management’s response.
If you have a rapport with your boss, ask them to fill you in on the specifics. What exact behaviours on your part led to this? Do these involve deficient skill sets, irritating personality traits, inappropriate transactions with others, or something else.
Decide If The Demotion Is Good Or Bad For You
An involuntary demotion can feel like a punch to the stomach. It’s a sign that something is very wrong at work. Management has lost faith in your ability to handle a certain level of workload. Or they’re punishing you for something they believe you did (or neglected to do).
Still, the new position you’re in – though it comes with less salary and lower level responsibilities – may not be such a bad thing. If it exposes you to new people and projects, and if you can develop additional skill sets, then the job could be something of a gift. Consider that it could have been worse: a demotion is typically one step away from being downsized for good.
Fight It Internally If You Disagree Strongly
You don’t have to take your demotion as the final word. You have a choice to push back. Doing so may involve internal resources, external ones, or both. There is risk associated with each action you take, so weigh your options carefully.
Internally your boss is the first line of approach. Perhaps you can convince them that your demotion is undeserved. Did they miss something, or misperceive an important piece of evidence, when making the decision?
If the boss won’t budge, consider going over their head. But only if you have a good relationship with their superiors, and only if you’re willing to accept that this may cause your boss to retaliate against you further. If your employer has an HR department, this would be a good time to visit them for a chat on how to proceed.
Fight It Externally If You Can’t Get Satisfaction Inside
Demotions are subject to legal interpretation. Specifically, if you’re demotion is unwarranted, or if it so severe that it’s pretty much like you’ve been fired, then you may have a case for constructive dismissal.
Speak to an employment lawyer to see if your circumstances qualify, and what steps you should take to pursue your remedies. “Small changes are not a constructive dismissal,” says legal expert Howard Levitt. “However, if the employer makes a number of small changes which, taken together, represent a fundamental change in the terms of employment, then that employee has been constructively dismissed.”
Fix Things If You Plan On Staying
No matter if you’re happy or angry about the demotion, you’ll have to reveal your intent sooner than later. Staying quietly, fighting loudly, or fleeing fleetly, management will be waiting for your reaction.
If you plan on sticking around and not challenging the decision, tell them directly. It will reassure your boss that you can still be relied on. Then show them you mean it. Accepting your reduced job with dignity announces you’re here to stay
Move Back Up The Ladder, Or Enjoy The Reduced Responsibility
A lower level job may give you a chance to get back in your manager’s good graces. It could free you from extra duties, letting you focus on fewer assignments but improving the quality of your output. That’s a good way to reprove yourself to the higher ups.
But maybe you’re just glad to be rid of extra stress and duties. There is something to be said for career plateauing – staying put in one position for an extended time, and enjoying life in different ways.
Hide Your Disappointment If You Plan On Leaving Voluntarily
When a demotion makes you miserable, it may be time to leave and find better. Try to do so in a way that optimizes your chances of getting a better job elsewhere.
Dragging yourself around the workplace, grumbling to colleagues, means people will sense your unhappiness.
It may not take long before you’re ejected. So continue to be outwardly positive while still at work though looking elsewhere. It may mean the difference between a positive reference and a lot of uncomfortable explainiing to do.